If you pay Spanish social security contributions you and your family are entitled to free or subsidised medical treatment at your local Centro de salud. If you are a retired EU resident, receiving a state pension, you are also entitled to register with a doctor and receive medical treatment.
Your employer can apply for your social security card or if you are self employed you can employ a gestor to complete the bureaucracy on your behalf or alternatively apply in person at your local social security office. Your card will take some months to arrive, however your temporary card, issued at the time of application, is sufficient to register with a doctor.
At the Centro de salud you will need to complete a short form and select a doctor from a list. Do be aware that most medical practitioners only speak Spanish and if you need to see a doctor you should ensure that a Spanish speaking friend accompanies you.
At the Costa del Sol hospital there are translators on hand to assist with language differences but you may have to wait for their services due to demand. It is recommended that you are accompanied by a Spanish speaker as it is so easy for misunderstandings to occur if you are depending on gestures alone. It may also be frustrating for the medical staff who have a long list of patients to see after you.
Do be aware that the Spanish health system may differ greatly to that which you are used to. You will need to be prepared to wait. Outpatient treatment is very limited and immunisation programmes for children may operate using a different time scale.
If you do not qualify to receive social security medical care you must arrange private health insurance. If you wish to become a permanent resident of Spain you must be able to show proof that you have a private healthcare scheme if you are not contributing to Spanish social security.
If you have paid regular social security contributions in an EU country for two years prior to your arrival in Spain, you may be entitled to healthcare for a limited period from your last payment. You must make arrangements and obtain the relevant forms in your home country before arriving in Spain.